How to File a Restraining Order in Kentucky

By Teo Spengler - Updated October 17, 2018
Portrait of pensive woman sitting at table in the kitchen

A restraining order is a court order requiring one person to stop harming another. It restrains the harmful conduct in order to protect the victim. That's why it's also called a protective order. Because abuse comes in so many different forms, most states have more than one type of order. In Kentucky, there are several different orders available from the court. Two relate to domestic violence. Both an emergency protective order and a domestic violence protective order in Kentucky protect against abuse by someone in a close relationship with the victim. An interpersonal protective order is intended to stop abuse by someone in a less close relationship with the victim or, in some cases, a stranger. It is possible to get an emergency interpersonal protective order, as well.

Emergency Protective Order in Kentucky

An emergency protective order in Kentucky is also called an EPO or an EPO order. It is the first restraining order issued in many domestic violence cases, since often victims of this type of violence do not seek help until they feel afraid that they or their kids are in immediate danger of injury from an abuser. An EPO for domestic violence is an emergency order issued by the court before it contacts or hears from the alleged abuser. It is issued ex parte, which means without any notice to or input from the person accused of abuse. These EPOs are normally valid only until the court can schedule and hold a formal hearing with notice to both sides and an opportunity to be heard. At that point, a Domestic Violence Order can be issued, replacing the EPO with an order valid for up to three years.

In order to apply for an EPO for domestic violence, you must have or have had a particular type of relationship with the abuser, a close personal relationship. You can seek a protective order for abuse done to you or your children by a current or former spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend with whom you cohabited or a boyfriend or girlfriend with whom you have had a child. You can also seek domestic violence protection for violence by a parent or stepparent, an adult child or stepchild, or a grandparent or grandchild. If you are seeking a protective order for your child, the matter can be filed against anyone living in the household, regardless of how close their relationship is with her.

You don't need to pay a fee for an EPO, nor do you need to hire an attorney. Essentially, you just need to go to the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk in whatever county you are living at the moment in Kentucky, even if you are just there in a safe house to avoid the abuse. You will find an Office of Circuit Court Clerk in every county in the state of Kentucky. Protective orders are available 24 hours a day, and you won't be charged any fees for the petition. If the court isn't open, talk to your local law enforcement agency for help.

The court clerk or law enforcement staff will provide you the forms to fill out. Identify yourself and the abuser, and then fill out the part of the form about the abuse. Use details and dates as much as you can, describing the acts that were done to you. Don't just say he hurt you. Provide a description of exactly what happened, like he punched you, slapped you, shoved you or kicked you. Tell the truth at all times. If you need support, you can often find an advocate at a domestic violence shelter to help you fill out the forms.

If you feel that you or your minor children are in immediate danger, ask for an EPO, a temporary emergency order that a judge will grant even without talking to the abuser. The EPO orders the abuser not to harm or threaten you or your child. If the abuser violates this order, you can call the police and the abuser can be charged criminally.

A Domestic Violence Order in Kentucky

Whether or not you ask for or get an EPO, filling out the forms starts the process for getting a domestic violence order (DVO). The court schedules a hearing to address the issuing of a longer term order within 14 days of the day you file the petition. You will receive notice of the time and place of the hearing from the court, and the law enforcement personnel will serve a copy on the alleged abuser. If you got an EPO, it will remain in effect until the hearing is held.

You need to show up at the hearing for the DVO or your petition will be dismissed. If you do show up but the other person doesn't, you will likely be issued a domestic violence order. If the abuser intentionally violates any part of this order, Kentucky treats this as a criminal offense. It can be charged as either contempt of court or a Class A misdemeanor.

An Interpersonal Violence Order

The DVO is applicable only if you are the victim of abuse from someone who is a spouse or family member or in a different close personal relationship with you as outlined above. If the abuser is not in this type of relationship with you, you still may be able to get a restraining order against him if you are a victim of dating abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

What do these terms mean in Kentucky law? Dating violence, also called dating abuse, occurs if you have been dating someone who injures you physically, stalks you, assaults you sexually or makes you afraid that these things are likely to happen. Sexual assault is any type of rape or sexual abuse committed by anyone, regardless of whether you dated the person. Stalking means to stalk or follow someone, or put them in fear of assault.

To obtain an interpersonal violence order, follow the same procedures as for a domestic violence order. Go to the court and fill out a petition, detailing what has happened. If you feel you or your children are in immediate danger, ask for a temporary protective order.

Once you fill out your forms, they are immediately reviewed by a judge. If the judge believes that there is an immediate danger of abuse (in the form of dating violence and abuse, sexual assault, or stalking) she issues an ex parte temporary interpersonal protective order. The judge doesn't talk to the abuser before issuing this order, but she will immediately schedule a hearing for a final interpersonal protective order. That hearing usually takes place within two weeks of the time you filed the petition.

As is the case with the DVO, a final interpersonal protective order cannot be issued until the alleged abuser has received notice of the hearing and has the opportunity to appear. Law enforcement gives the notice of hearing and the temporary order, if any, to the alleged abuser. That gives him the chance to go to court and participate in the hearing. Like you, he can offer evidence, question witnesses and so forth. If the judge hears all of the arguments and determines that the alleged abuse has taken place, she issues a final interpersonal protective order. In Kentucky, this order can be valid for up to three years and can be renewed after that for good cause.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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